After delivering an entertaining account of his not-terribly-arduous youth and progression up the ladder of scientific...

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AN APPETITE FOR WONDER

THE MAKING OF A SCIENTIST

Dawkins (b. 1941), having written best-sellers on his favorite subjects including evolutionary biology (The Selfish Gene, 1976) and atheism (The God Delusion, 2006), turns to the traditional autobiography.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, the author grew up in a happy family, his father an agricultural specialist in the British Colonial Service who returned to England in 1949. Dawkins delivers an amusing and thoughtful if often unflattering account of himself during his education at upper-class British prep schools. “I cannot deny a measure of unearned privilege when I compare my childhood, boyhood and youth to others less fortunate,” he writes. “I do not apologize for that privilege any more than a man should apologize for his genes or his face, but I am very conscious of it.” Entirely submissive to peer pressure, he enjoyed bullying unpopular classmates and pretended to know less than he did because academic achievement was scorned. Despite this unprepossessing background, he was admitted to Balliol, the most prestigious Oxford college, where he studied animal behavior under the inspiring Nobel laureate Niko Tinbergen. After a decade of intense research and deliberation, Dawkins narrowed his focus to the genes that produce this animal behavior, which led to his groundbreaking theory that it is genes, not the organism, that govern evolution. This remains controversial, but it propelled him to a flourishing career as a scientist, educator and media personality, although the media (but not this book) emphasizes his atheism over his scientific accomplishments.

After delivering an entertaining account of his not-terribly-arduous youth and progression up the ladder of scientific academia, Dawkins ends with the publication of The Selfish Gene, but most readers will eagerly anticipate a concluding volume.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-222579-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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